The Impact of Social Isolation on Seniors: Combating Loneliness in 2022
During the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation slowly and stealthily became the norm for millions of people. While social distancing rules have been relaxed or done away with altogether, millions remain at risk of becoming isolated. Seniors, in particular, are vulnerable because of their limited mobility and other barriers to socialization.
Fortunately, in-home care offers an easy and effective way to ensure that elderly folks can make human connections. The best health aides will help their patients—not only with cooking, cleaning, and other household chores—but also with social stimulation.
Social Isolation is a Serious Issue That Impacts Lifespans
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that social isolation and loneliness are “serious public health risks affecting a significant number of people in the United States and putting them at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions.” In addition, the CDC has found that isolation can greatly increase the risk of premature death from all causes.
Elderly individuals are especially vulnerable to loneliness. Most seniors have lost family and friends. Chronic illnesses and other factors can impede mobility and the ordinary, day-to-day activities of life. Many elderly folks also suffer from impaired vision and hearing, making it more difficult to hold simple conversations or attend, and enjoy, social events.
Visits from family and friends can certainly help. However, seniors benefit the most from daily social stimuli, and, unfortunately, many families can’t provide that level of interaction. Hiring an in-home health aide can significantly help; professional aides can provide social interaction and friendship—day in and day out.
Social Isolation May Increase the Risk of Mental Health Issues
Mental health is important at every stage of life and could have as profound of an impact on a person’s overall well-being as their physical health. Unfortunately, social isolation is often detrimental to mental well-being.
Researchers have found that social isolation increases the risks of depression and anxiety. Human beings are social creatures by nature. Positive interactions with other people can lead to oxytocin being released. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love” or “happy” hormone, and it is believed to increase one’s overall happiness.
A Lack of Social Stimuli Can Lead to Dementia
Dementia is a scourge impacting millions around the world. In the United States, roughly 7 million people aged 65 or older suffered from dementia in 2020. This condition is especially common in those over the age of 80. Roughly 22 percent of individuals 85 to 89, and 33 percent of individuals 90 or older suffer from this devastating condition.
Here again, isolation is a major risk factor for dementia. In fact, isolation can increase risks by up to 50 percent. By providing social stimuli, families and caregivers may be able to reduce cognitive decline.
In-Home Care Increases Social Interaction
As already noted, social isolation is a major risk factor for a variety of health conditions. Millions of people experienced loneliness before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now—as restrictions loosen—people are heading back into the office, or they’re enjoying gatherings with coworkers, friends, and family. Unfortunately for seniors, such trends may once again increase their risk for social isolation. In-home health aides can help counteract that potential risk by offering much needed social interaction, leading to better mental and physical well-being, while easing burdens on families and their older loved ones.
At StarPoint Home Care, we make sure our home care aides give your loved ones the care, assistance, and social interaction they deserve to live their lives to the fullest. To learn more about our services and how we can help, visit us online or give us a call at 513-766-3339.